Cornerstone Theater Company


Meet Lynette aka Chabela in Café Vida

Lynette, who plays Chabela in Café Vida, outside the Cornerstone office. Photos by James Cheeks III.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Café Vida cast member Lynette Alfaro about Homeboy Industries and her involvement in the upcoming production. Lynette’s humble personality and gratefulness stood out as she told me about her long-time aspiration to be an artist and the path that eventually led her to the stage. She is clearly excited about acting and developing her creative side – a pursuit once stifled by gang-life.  After being released from jail, Lynette’s probation officer referred her to Homeboy Industries, where she saw the audition posting for Café Vida.  She describes the opportunity as “heaven-sent” and she’s optimistic about what she can bring to the role of Chabela in Café Vida, who also shares a similar past.

Are there any moments in the play when you feel like, “This role was meant for me”?
A lot. A lot of it seems like it’s based on my life. My real personality. Like real events, real activities. I can’t put down one moment, in my heart I just feel it. I just feel so strongly that I want everybody else to experience it for what it is. I pray every night that I translate it and do it justice, that I give [the audience] the true essence of what it is.

What’s your favorite scene in the play, if you have one?
I think the bar scene. I like the bar, the dream. I like the way [Lisa Loomer] wrote… it’s very creative. So I’m gonna enjoy the creativeness of seeing that scene play itself out.

What are some of the best things you’ve experienced so far in working with Cornerstone?
Just the whole process. Everyone’s been so lovely. Everyone has a lot of heart, heart for what they do, passion. It’s good people. My favorite thing is the people, people quality.

Does your son know what’s going on?
He’s happy. He knows mama’s got a big plate right now and it’s all for our betterment, our empowerment. So, it’s good.

What are some of the tough moments you’ve faced while working on the play?
Yeah, a lot. It’s like God does this for a reason. So this is bringing stuff from my past up, stuff that I thought I had put away. I’m finding that I could use a little tidying in my file cabinets of life.

How do you mean?
You see I’m older, wiser. I know a lot more. I’m too complicated to break down into black and white, even as a gang member … But I’m not a gangster anymore. I’m not that no more.

What are some of the things that you hope people who come to the play will take home with them?
Love and connection and the spirit of God’s true plan for us. Simple love and connection. Hopefully they just see something that calls out to their heart or connects to them. Even if they don’t know it in their head, for them to feel it in their soul. That would be my hope. That’s what I want to see.

It’s clear that Homeboy Industries continues to be a bright light in your life. Tell us about your experience with Homeboy and now with Café Vida.
Everything just fell together. Just like Cornerstone’s connection with Father G [founder and director of Homeboy Industries]. Different backgrounds, similar heart. That’s what Homeboy is and brings to my life. It helps with my growth and my spirituality because of the oneness, the one love. It’s like, it gives you a path up.

You told me you felt like this opportunity was heaven-sent when you saw the audition posting while working at Homeboy.
It was a surreal thing. I’m walking, doing my thing [cleaning] with my spray bottle and the flyer just flew in. It was just like BOOM, caught my attention. I’d only been working one month at Homeboy. And there was “Auditions Auditions Auditions” written everywhere [on the flyer]. And I was just like “What?” Picked it up. Went to the front desk like, “What’s this? Did I miss this?” Nobody knew about it. So I just put it in my pocket. I went about my business. Started upstairs on the rails. Then I looked down and I saw Raquel [Cornerstone’s Manager of Community Partnerships], this young woman coming in holding stuff. Something in me just thought, “Oh, is that the audition people?” Cause she had a big plastic container. And then like 5 to 10 minutes after that, a Homegirl brought her to my attention, cause here she was coming up the stairs. And when I saw her come up the stairs I was thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got to audition.” I wanted to stop working and just run up to her and be like, “Yeah I’m interested,” but something in my soul told me just relax, just do what you got to do, just wait. You’ll get in trouble acting like a big ole kid. So I just kept working and then somebody brought her to me. God led her to me.

That’s cool. You told me you’ve always expressed yourself through poems and songs, but for a while weren’t really doing that. Does it feel like it’s coming full circle years later?
Yeah, doing this stuff has always been in my heart. You know wherever I was at, I always held onto my heart. By His grace, I always held onto my heart. And there were still hidden parts of my heart throughout the game. These types of avenues have always been there, like a potential, something I wanted to do. I never said “Cause I’m from this background I can’t do it,” but I had to think about my day on the streets before I started thinking, “Let me go get artsy.” So I’m just, I’m grateful, and I’m happy.

Any last things you want to say to the world or say about anything?
I really hope you come check out Café Vida and the whole Hunger Cycle. Great people. Great heart. Great energy. And it’s for a good purpose – enlightenment of the heart and soul. So I hope I see you there.

We hope to see everybody there and thank you, Lynette, for this interview and we’ll see you at the opening night­­ of Café Vida.

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STAFF_JamesCheeks_SMJames Cheeks III is Cornerstone’s Communication Associate.